Sex in YA
This month, I wanted to talk about something related to romance (because I love romance): sex in YA. I feel like sex in YA can either be good or just plain horrible, so let’s jump into it and see why that is!
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*This is an extension of my November Giveaway. So I will pick one winner from those that commented on last month’s and this month’s giveaway (i.e. between those two I will pick one winner, not one for each month). If there are not at least 10 participants the giveaway will be canceled.
I’m sure there are plenty of other YA where sex comes up but the four books that I chose were the ones that immediately jumped into my head so those are the ones I’ll be talking about.
When I thought about writing this discussion the very first book I thought of was House of Night. Although I have plenty of other issues with this series, the sexual angle was one that I was okay with at first, but then I slowly grew tired of it. I kind of knew what I was getting into with this book because within the first few chapters we had the main character walking in on a blowjob in the school hallway soooooo…. yeah. I mean, that kind of just told me everything right there lol. Which honestly, I was in high school when I started reading this and it didn’t bother me but I was still like “umm…. why?”
And when I continued the series I came to just expect it. Every book had one major sex/sexual scene. It was almost like the authors had a checklist when they were writing and they put this on it every time. I think that’s why it honestly started to bother me. It didn’t feel organic anymore. It just felt forced and then further in the series sex just became more and more of a focus. It got tiring and I could see how the writing was suffering.
I had pretty much the same problem with Stella Maris, except in that book it bothered me right away. The male protagonist in that book was just a “bad boy” horny teenager. And it totally showed in the writing. Any narration from his point of view included constant comments about the female protagonist’s body (usually her boobs). It was really objectifying and really weird. I couldn’t even focus on the plot because I kept feeling like I was reading from the POV of a sexual predator.
Both House of Night and Stella Maris read like some bad horny teenage fanfictions. And I think that’s the problem that you can run into with sex in YA. If you just throw it in there without really taking the time to build the relationship between characters it can feel forced, tacky, and just kind of creepy.
On the other hand, we have Throne of Glass and And I Darken. Both have sex scenes in them, but they didn’t bother me at all. I was actually really wanting them to come along because of the relationship that had been growing between the characters.
In both cases, the sex came with romantic ties and I think that’s really what matters to me when an author writes sex into a YA novel. In Throne of Glass there’s a bit more detail put into the scene than the ones in And I Darken. Part of that is that in And I Darken, the sex seems very secondary to everything else going on in the plot. The sex isn’t the goal of the book, nor does it become such a focus that the plot devolves in pursuit of it (like in House of Night).
I definitely think that when it comes to sex in YA there needs to be a good reason for it. Because I love romance, I’ve read plenty of YA with romance in it that didn’t have sex in it. Is it necessary for a good book? No. But if it’s there I prefer it to be because of an emotional connection and not just something physical. Definitely not just because the authors want to check it off a list or want to bombard us with fanfiction-type writing.
One thing I didn’t touch on in the discussion was whether or not sex should be in YA novels. What do you think?